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Would a person need to licence the copyright in order to make and distribute a Monopoly video game?

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  • I care only about the name. If I am forbidden to use the name "Monopoly" for my app, then I would desist because the sole fact that the app would be named in another way, would negatively affect my sales. – Ramy Al Zuhouri May 4 '17 at 13:48
  • You'd want to search the trademark database. – Pat W. May 4 '17 at 15:28
  • We need a conflict of interest policy, in case someone from Parker Brothers posts the same question. – Patrick Conheady May 19 '17 at 14:27
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    @PatW Not all countries require trademarks to be registered in order to be enforceable. True, there are "trademark databases" that include many non-registered trademarks, not to mention those registered in each state of the USA, but your comment implied that a comprehensive search could be had in a single database. – Upnorth Sep 13 '17 at 16:13
  • I was interested in your same question myself (writing a program called "monopoly"), and so googled it, coming across your question here and also the following... nytimes.com/1983/02/23/business/… Apparently, Parker Bros. no longer has that word trademarked. So with that Supreme Court decision (letting the lower court ruling stand), does that mean I (and you) can now name or programs "monopoly"? Or what, exactly? (Note: this occurred in 1983, very much predating your question and all answers below.) – John Forkosh Jun 3 '18 at 4:48
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Monopoly is a trademark of Parker Brothers. You would need to get permission to use that trademark.

The artwork of the game is copyrighted and cannot be duplicated without violating that copyright.

In general, the labels meaning phrases like "Go to Jail" and "New York Avenue" are probably copyrighted and some court decisions have decided that labels are a copyrightable element. However, there is some gray area.

The game mechanics are not copyrightable and can be duplicated.

What this means is that if you clone the game and use new labels (like new property names and card titles) then you are probably fine. You would have to make a novel board design.

If you clone the game, but use the game's labels, then you could potentially lose in court.

Of course, remember that corporations will sometimes sue just to intimidate people, even if they have a losing case. Just because your clone is non-infringing doesn't mean they won't sue you.

It costs them money to sue people, so if your clone is obscure or not used by many people it could fly under the radar and be ignored by the company. If your clone was a success and became widely used, that would significantly increase the chance you could get sued.

In most cases a company will threaten infringers before they sue them, because it is a lot cheaper to threaten somebody than sue them. Therefore, you could make your clone and just plan on discontinuing it if they threaten you. Of course, there is a small risk they would sue you anyway. If you made no money then you are probably safe because it would be a lot harder for them to argue that you commercially damaged them if you made no money.

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  • For copyright infringement they don't have to argue that you commercially damaged them - only that your copy was unauthorized and contained copyrighted elements that they own. The court/jury may then award statutory damages up to $150,000 for each work infringed, plus the plaintiff's attorneys' fees. 17 USC §§ 504, 505. This would be much more likely brought as a trademark lawsuit, requiring proof of damages. – Upnorth Sep 13 '17 at 16:10
  • @Upnorth That is not true. To make a claim of $150,000 requires proof of WILLFUL infringement, and even then it is at the discretion of the court. In general, nearly all courts will award large judgements only upon proof of loss of revenue and a willful infringement. Typical judgements in real life are only a few thousand dollars. – Cicero Jan 26 '18 at 2:52
  • That's why the law and comment both say "up to". @Cicero – Nij Jan 26 '18 at 3:50
  • @Cicero So, you agree that statutory damages are possible, although your answer suggested otherwise. In "real life", a Mrs Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $9,250 per song for copies of 24 songs shared FREELY on her online account, when sued by Capitol Records, down from $1.92 million that one jury had awarded in June, 2009. The jury found "willful infringement", based upon her knowledge or reckless disregard of the fact that the works were copyrighted. – Upnorth Jan 27 '18 at 12:59
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The name "MONOPOLY" is a registered trademark for the board game and has been registered in the USA since 1935. It is owned by Hasbro Inc., of Rhode Island. The brand applies to a "real estate trading game", the distinctive pieces of the game, the "money" used, not to mention computer games, among other things. USPTO: TSDR Monopoly brand computer game

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"MONOPOLY�, the distinctive design of the gameboard, the four corner squares, the Mr. Monopoly name and character, and each of the distinctive elements of the board, are trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. for its property trading game and game equipment. � 1999 Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved."

https://www.hasbro.com/home/copyrightold.html

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